Reuben Cotter used to enjoy watching Cowboys legends Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen reach into their bag of tricks for the Indigenous All Stars.
Now, the 22-year-old will become the latest North Queensland player to represent the Indigenous team after being selected to start at hooker against the Maori All Stars on February 20.
Even better for Cotter is that the Harvey Norman All Stars match will be contested at the Cowboys' Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville.
"I'm pretty stoked. It's obviously big for me, coming from an Indigenous background," he told NRL.com on Thursday.
"I'm excited to represent my family and I know Mum was proud."
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Cotter will be part of a strong spine, with Rabbitohs star Latrell Mitchell to make his return from a hamstring injury at fullback and his South Sydney teammate Cody Walker in the halves.
Titan Jamal Fogarty, another All Stars rookie, will be the No.7.
"That [free-flowing] style of footy was something I really enjoyed as a kid and we all tried to do it in the backyard," Cotter said.
"It will suit Cody Walker's game. I'm looking forward to linking up with those guys and hopefully, we can play that style of footy ... It will do a lot for myself, playing alongside some of those guys.
"It will help my game and I'll be able to take that back to clubland as well. I'm excited just to get that experience with those guys and just see how they play and train and go about their days."
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Cotter added that "our back five is pretty good with the likes of the Foxx [Josh Addo-Carr] and Fergo [Blake Ferguson], but all across the park we've got a pretty strong team."
On the North Queensland front, the dummy-half said new coach Todd Payten has made a fantastic impression.
However, he's not yet sure how he'll fit into the team despite playing 10 NRL games in 2020 and finishing the season in the run-on side following Reece Robson's hamstring injury.
"[Todd] has been unreal ever since he's been here. He's a very approachable guy and he's been good to all of us," Cotter said.
"We're all happy to buy into the way he wants to coach and the way he wants to play. We've been putting in some hard work and we're looking forward to round one.
"He's just been trying to pump into us the basics with the new style of footy, playing direct. It's been very competitive with all us [number] nines ... I'd love to be the starting nine, but I'm not fussed coming off the bench either - whatever suits our team in that week and how we want to play our footy."
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Having Dragons great Dean Young, an accomplished hooker and lock during his playing days, join the coaching staff has also been beneficial for Cotter and fellow rakes Robson and Jake Granville.
"Youngy's been pretty good with us. He takes it pretty seriously, but he's very knowledgeable in those positions. Having him to learn off is good for the three of us," Cotter said.
"That little man off the bench will become more important now. Having someone that's fit and can play that sort of lock/hooker role becomes more important as it becomes faster."
Payten may now be in charge, but Cotter said the squad were pleased for former mentor Paul Green after he was confirmed on Thursday as Queensland coach for the 2021 Ampol State of Origin series.
"We're all happy for him. Obviously, it's a big role, but he's had a lot of success here at the Cowboys and I'm sure that'll follow him with that role too. We're happy for him," Cotter said.
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